Labeling women as ’emotional’ undermines their credibility, new study shows

New investigate finds that labeling a woman “emotional” or telling her to “calm down” makes her point of view seem less credible. From Kamala Harris to Oprah Winfrey, the label “emotional” is often applied to women in politics, entertainment, business, and any arena where women are trying to be heard.

In general, we tend to think of people as either rational or emotional, but they can’t be both. When a woman’s arguments are attributed to her emotions, it suggests that she is not thinking clearly or rationally. As a result, the legitimacy of her arguments is weakened.

This link between the label “emotional” and the legitimacy of a woman’s arguments was established in recent studies published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly. Study participants read a dialogue between two people in disagreement. During the conflict, a woman or a man was told to “calm down”. When a woman was instructed to “calm down,” the participants rated her argument in disagreement as significantly less legitimate. In a similar study, in which the woman was labeled “emotional,” the researchers got the same results. In both situations, the woman’s credibility is affected.

Interestingly, men’s legitimacy is not affected when they are labeled “emotional” or told to “calm down.” That’s because people don’t believe in the label “emotional” when applied to men. The researchers write that the participants “believed the emotional assessment when it was directed at women, but did not believe it when it was directed at men. Specifically, when both women and men were called emotional in identical circumstances, female characters (disagreeing) were perceived as more emotional than male characters.

women often to complain about being told to “calm down” or express less emotion at work. Oprah Winfrey said the hollywood reporter which was criticized for 60 minutes for expressing too much emotion, even in the way he said her name. “It’s never good when I have to practice saying my name and they tell me I have too much emotion in my name,” Winfrey said. “I think I did seven takes of just my name because it was ‘too emotional.’ ‘I said, ‘Is there too much emotion in the ‘Oprah’ part or the ‘Winfrey’ part?’” he explained. He also said he was told to flatten her voice and show less emotion in readings on the TV news show. .

Women politicians are often easy targets for the “emotional” label because the job requires passion for their convictions. A former Trump campaign adviser called Vice President Kamala Harris went “hysterical” after Harris asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions challenging questions during a hearing in 2017. In 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump labelled candidate Hillary Clinton as “a totally crazy person.” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has had a hard time shedding “crocodile tears” after a vote in the plenary session of the House.

The link between emotion and women politicians is so strong that some still believe that women are unfit for the job. A study 2019 from Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce found that about 13% of men and women still have doubts about women’s emotional suitability for politics. That’s a whopping 1 in 8 people.

The good news is that there has been some progress since the 1970s, when the percentage who believed women were emotionally unsuitable for politics peaked at nearly 50%. At the time, when considering the appointment of a woman to the Supreme Court, President Nixon told John Mitchell, ”I don’t think a woman should be in any government position. I mean, I really don’t. The reason I do it is mainly because they are erratic. And emotional.”

Despite advances, the belief that women are more emotional than men remains one of the strongest gender stereotypes. And new research shows the detrimental effects of triggering those stereotypes, even when they’re inaccurate.

Yale management professor Victoria Brescoll has plot that “emotional gender stereotypes present a fundamental barrier to women’s ability to rise and succeed in leadership roles.” Brescoll has also written about how expressing emotions creates a double bind for women leaders. Leaders are often penalized for minor displays of emotion, but being emotionally deadpan can also result in penalties. Emotionless women are seen as falling short of the warm, communal role that women are supposed to adopt. In other words, when it comes to expressing emotions, women can’t win.

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